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Remember the Internet… and Lipstick?

The longing for simpler days. Nostalgia. You can’t go home again.

You get the point.

It wasn’t that long ago – perhaps the 1980’s – when billions of people had no exposure to the internet.  Now, according to Internet World Stats, a top provider of current world internet usage, over 4 billion users had tapped into the internet by year end 2017.

total unternet infoWhile over 2 billion of these surfers are located in Asia, the continent of North America boasts the greatest penetration rate, a marketing parameter that indicates the adoption or usage rate.  In North America, the internet adoption rate leads worldwide at 95%.

But we digress.

As connected, innovative devices – and their swift adoption – have expanded exponentially, the idea of simply cruising the internet for information and email with a stand-alone computer seems rudimentary and dated. More recently, people and businesses- and their “smart” devices – have succumbed to vigorously engaging with the Internet of Things (IOT). The wireless virtual assistant at home (Cortana or Siri), the Fitbit that uploads and synchs daily fitness data with smartphones, or the smart thermostat allowing consumers to control the climate in their home remotely are mere samplings of the networked players in the IoT.

A widely used expression to define “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data,” the IoT was first coined by Britain’s Kevin Ashton, widely considered the father of IoT. Ironically, the term was first presented at a meeting in a relatively low-tech presentation tool – PowerPoint.

In 1999, Ashton was a brand manager at Proctor and Gamble and working on a lipstick launch.  Noticing the shelves were often empty of one particular shade of P&G’s new product, he sought to develop a way to remotely track the quantity of lipstick on display. Excited about the idea of using a radio enabled chip known as RFID (radio-frequency identification) to electronically – and instantly – transmit supply chain data, Ashton was determined to share the concept with his colleagues.

Hence, he created the PowerPoint presentation entitled “the Internet of Things”.

Fast forward to 2018 where the IoT is arguably standard procedure… especially in supply chains.  The IoT delivers numerous efficiencies via asset tracking, supplier relations and inventory forecasting.  The collection and visibility of supply chain data via the IoT not only optimizes the supply chain, it is a key element in improving the customer experience. In fact, the significance of IoT in supply chains has gained such traction that Rutgers University has launched an educational program that specifically explores and explains the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the next generation of supply chain strategy.

At SDI, the efficiency and effectiveness of our supply chain offerings are dependent on our innovative processes and their underlying technology.  Information on how you can leverage our expertise – using the IoT – can be found here.


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The Evolving Dynamics of Hiring Practices

According to Wiktionary, a well-oiled machine is something that operates capably through the effective coordination of many parts. Macmillan Dictionary, a recognized international publisher of encyclopedias, takes it a step further by defining it as a well-oiled system, project, or company that operates without problems.

In any case, these systems or machines rely on a stable, highly functional foundation – employees.  Employees, equipped with the right skill set, are the keepers of the efficiently running enterprise.

But, hold on.

With the onset of the “gig economy,” in which freelancers and contingent labor (AKA complimentary workforce or independent contractors) make up an increasing portion of a company’s resource pool, the dynamics behind hiring have changed radically.   The erosion in the “lifetime career” employment model has been arguably displaced by the Managed Services Provider (MSP) model, whereby a third-party vendor/company handles primary responsibility for managing an enterprise’s independent contractors.

These on-demand employment opportunities have grown significantly, particularly in this century. According to a recent study by Intuit, the financial software company, by the year 2020 43 percent of the United States workforce will be contingent labor. intuit_qb_social_charts_0815 The accompanying chart illustrates the rapid growth in this labor type in the U.S. from 1989 to Intuit’s 2020 forecast.

Quality of work

As businesses increasingly rely on the use of contracted labor to ensure their enterprise indeed remains well-oiled, the vetting process for resources is crucial. Since rapidly and effectively managing global resources can be challenging, cumbersome and costly for any business, the delivery and support of qualified resources are increasingly handled by reputable MSPs with years of experience.  These MSPs are committed to attracting and retaining highly specialized global professional resources to swiftly engage, deploy and deliver value.

While the basic responsibilities of an MSP may include general program management, supplier selection and management, reporting and tracking, among the most critical responsibilities is to ensure contractor compliance. Simply put, companies must adhere to federal regulations which determine whether to classify a hired resource as an employee of the company or an Independent Contractor.  Since one of the principal risks in employing independent talent is misclassifying employees as independent contractors, due diligence in vetting is essential.

SDI has deep expertise in small supplier spend and has been managing small suppliers on behalf of Fortune 500 companies since 1992. vetted ICs SDI’s continually evolving best practices program results in the provision of vetted, experienced, and trusted resources to business enterprises.   Our contractor compliance program guarantees 100 percent adherence to federal law.

More information on how we can be of help staffing your organization can be found here.

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Supply Chain Gifts of 2018

Everybody loves numbers. Not necessarily numbers in the arithmetic, trigonometric or algebraic sense. Rather, the simple use of numbers in headlines is apparently an effective trigger to draw readers into perusing content organized numerically. And content that might be useful as well.

So, in the spirit of songs such as The 12 days of Christmas and The 8 Days of Hanukkah, we’d like to share what we believe will be among the best supply chain practices and considerations for 2018.  While we have no intention in sharing it in musical format, we’ll simply refer to it as 5 Supply Chain Gifts for 2018 – in no particular order.

  1. Cybersecurity – Considering the volumes of data shared and transmitted among suppliers, business partners and other third parties, data breaches are a risk if all engaged parties are not maintaining standards of security compliance. As the Digital Guardian suggests, “The supply chain as a whole is only truly secure when all entities throughout the supply chain carry out effective, coordinated security measures to ensure the integrity of supply chain data, the safety of goods, and the security of the global economy.”
  1. Blockchain – On the topic of security, block chain is the incorruptible digital ledger used to accurately and securely record transactions among participants. This technology gained familiarity and recognition as the platform that records cryptocurrency transactions, but has subsequently seen additional use to prevent voter fraud and improve government efficiency. IBM has implemented blockchain in their supply chain network and has yielded results such as improved inventory management, fraud reduction and elimination, and increased customer/partner trust.
  1. Artificial Intelligence – Intelligent machines learning and adapting from human experiences and other interactions.  Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal published a piece declaring, “Artificial intelligence is shaping up as the next industrial revolution.” AI is the force behind voice-powered personal assistants, virtual reality, military mission management and more. American Express purports AI has a role in Global Supply Chain Management Planning. It can leverage information from sources as varied as historical data, social media and weather forecasts and, “AI-based machine learns to automatically analyze vast amounts of supply-chain management data, identify trends, and generate predictive analytics — the ability to predict problems and outcomes.” A supply chain manager’s dream.
  1. Data Analytics – No longer in its infancy, data analytics has long been an imperative for organizations ranging from baseball teams to chess leagues. Used for years in SCM, it is constantly evolving. Just ask IBM. By parsing out the types of analytics, e.g., predictive and prescriptive, and their respective usefulness, e.g., what might happen and what shall we do about it, IBM demonstrates how big data can be used to answer the toughest business questions. More here on their other types of analytics.
  2. People – Talented, skilled and dedicated resources are the foundation and support of innumerable organizations. Whether executing day-to-day processes or applying innovative applications to emerging technologies, people provide the vision and creativity to run a well-oiled, high functioning organization.

    The human component, for 2018, just might be your most important business asset.

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Mobile App Dependency

Imagine a world in which trauma is incurred due to the failure of an app.  Perhaps it is not so hard to envision should an incorrect medical diagnosis, due to faulty IT systems and data, result in personal harm.

But, suppose the distress is suffered due to faulty pizza delivery information transmitted by a vendor’s app?

While this may seem like an exaggeration, in truth, Domino’s pizza recently received negative press when consumers realized the accuracy of their transmitted pizza creation and delivery process was in serious question. When recounting errors in Domino’s mobile app, one user indicated “The first traumatic experience I had with the app was over the summer,” when her pizza was delivered late.

Individuals and businesses have come to rely so heavily on the performance of their apps and online tools that it is understandable when a user believes “If you’ve taken the time to create this technology to try and be engaged with your customer, can you do it correctly at least?”


Arguably, computer technology has been foundational infrastructure for businesses since the introduction of the IBM 701 in the early 1950s. Plenty of tabulators, calculators and the UNIVAC had been in use, but the 701 was among the first widely used and fully electronic data processing systems. Progress in information technology has been rapid since then, and especially exponential in the last few years.

The accompanying graphic from CA technologies, which depicts The History of IT Infrastructure since the advent of the 701, was presented to both illustrate the evolution of the systems and tools on which businesses have grown dependent, as well as question what technology components businesses are missing. Since this graphic’s publication in 2015 new technologies have surfaced that prove enormously useful, if not dispensable, to enterprises looking to retain and expand their businesses – without digital mishaps.

IT history a

The current explosion in the usage of mobile devices and the accompanying personal and business applications have left few 21st century employees and users experiencing the luxury of a disconnected lifestyle. Further evolution of IT systems has placed ample mobile apps in our hands for access 24/7.  The cryptocurrency bitcoin alone has a host of apps for your Bitcoin Wallet.

As we near the end of 2017, what are the major mobile applications for small businesses and enterprises? Here are just a few for various devices…

For remote business collaboration Business News Daily likes Slack for its ease in implementing audio, text and video as shared communications tools. For simplified file synching their recommendation is Dropbox which provides an easily manageable productive and connected environment. Similar to, but not as powerful as Microsoft Office, Google’s G Suite offers businesses and individuals free (to a point) access to spreadsheet, document and email creation.  Calendar and cloud function is accessible there as well.

Weighing in on mobile apps specifically designed for business use is PC Magazine who recently compiled a useful list of twenty applications that will enhance mobile functionality. NetSuite tops the list for “one-stop shopping” for ERP, finance and CRM processes. For those that need to collaborate digitally at a moment’s notice, ClickMeeting is recommended for video conferencing, screen sharing and streaming. To help track and respond to sales leads while on the road, PC Magazine HubSpot which is available for iOS and Android devices.

Smaller businesses might consider a visit to Nerdwallet where they have neatly organized their top app choices by business function, such as communication, time management and finance.

At SDI, we recognize how critical innovative technology is to a business. The many services we offer are underpinned by a robust suite of technology solutions ready to meet your needs. Let us help.

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Baseball and Procurement: More in Common Than You Think

“Tis the season.  Post-season play continues for Major League (MLB) baseball as the final two teams have advanced and begun play in the World Series, the annual championship round of games endearingly referred to as the Fall Classic.

While MLB doesn’t boast a lengthy history comparable to that of procurement process execution (1869 vs. almost forever) they nonetheless share several essential process components.  Three that readily come to mind are sourcing, data analytics and risk management.   In fact, last year’s MLB Diversity Business Summit – the premier sports employment conference and supplier diversity trade fair- provided a wide range of

procurement ops mlb

procurement opportunities, not including the actual sourcing of their “core” commodity:  the major league players themselves.

Procuring core commodities is critical to any business. High quality baseball players are absolutely essential for competitive advantage, especially during the Fall Classic.

Baseball’s sources of supply

According to a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, “The overwhelming majority of major-league players come from one of two distinct pipelines. One is in Latin America, where an ingrained baseball culture coupled with rich signing bonuses serve as a magnet. The other is the American travel baseball circuit, in which parents pay thousands of dollars for children—nearly all of them white—to play year-round schedules in pursuit of a scholarship.”

Imagine the number of “procurement scouts”  required to cover two continents.

Once the teams are staffed, with 25 to 40 men on the roster, it is time to play, and perform, well. As in procurement, data analytics enters into play. The greatest example of leveraging data, and addressed in one of our earlier blogs, was outlined in Michael Lewis’s 2003 business best seller, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. He recounts how the manager of one of baseball’s infamous underdog teams, the Oakland Athletics, leveraged baseball statistics and data to determine player recruitment. By simply shifting reliance from a player’s hitting record to their on-base percentage, the game was transformed forever.

Increasingly, data analytics are crucial to every day play.  According to a July copy of BizTech magazine, “Every major league team has developed an analytics department over the past several years, but some more than others are pushing the envelope in using the technology.


The accompanying graphic illustrates the escalating use of analytics in MLB over the last few years…and the premium teams are willing to pay for “statheads.”

Similarly, innovative analysis of sourcing, spending data and supplier info – when collected and analyzed – gives an organization a competitive edge.


Yet, risk remains.

There is a fine balance between taking too much or not enough risk. Insufficient willingness to take risk in prospects may leave a team in short supply of future star players.  Conversely, taking excess risk may deliver an inflated team payroll yielding disappointing results.  Data analytics have proven to mitigate this risk.

Likewise, in contractor services procurement. Tracking and measuring a contractor’s performance and skill set, coupled with an executable feedback loop, provides an organization with a decision-making process. Will the tardy contractor be hired for future engagements? Will the error prone fielder be signed to a new contract?

If cutting-edge technology and innovative business processes are not part of your procurement organization SDI can help. SDI is uniquely positioned to bring process improvements that will enable your business to go further than it has gone before.

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Very Real Supply Chain Risk

Harvey, Irma and Maria.  These are seemingly innocent names and quite likely the given name of friends and family of countless people over hundreds of years.

Enter hurricane season 2017 and these appellations take on a new meaning. As the Atlantic hurricane season enters its second half  the effects of the aforementioned storms have generated a stunningly large volume of damage. And the season has two months remaining.  The loss of business and personal property, sizeable economic impact and most significantly, lack of swift recovery efforts are likely immeasurable.

Although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States science-based federal agency, purports that it might be too early to definitely blame gas-house emissions and global warming on the uptick of devastating hurricane activity, they do note that human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable.NOAA additionally indicates increased global warming might cause more intense and destructive potential per storm.

Various supply chain service sectors have been considerably disrupted and, unfortunately, among the most notable are those crucial to recovery efforts such as pharma (drug shortages due to factory destruction in Puerto Rico, for example) and transportation (damage to rail tracks, runways and roads). Yet, human and environmental factors are but two areas influencing efficient supply chain operation.

The optimal preparation to rapidly react to these and countless other unanticipated circumstances is risk mitigation or risk management, with risk defined as the “probability of occurrence x consequences.” The Supply Chain Risk Leadership Council (SCRM), a collaborative council that shares risk best practices, defines supply chain risk management as “the coordination of activities to direct and control an enterprise’s end-to-end supply chain with regard to supply-chain risks.”

Data from previous disasters such as Katrina have contributed to existing supply chain risk mitigation knowledge but there is much more to be learned about the response and recovery efforts from the recent spate of storms.  While the most capable of supply chain professionals have integrated risk management into their process portfolio, global environmental and political risks, in particular, act as clear reminders to strengthen risk management and supply chain disruption strategies.

What are the factors requiring risk mitigation and management

The accompanying graphic from logistics blogger Emilin Jimenez  supply_chain_riskscrisply illustrates the



numerous factors to be considered when crafting a risk mitigation strategy.

Armed with the right data, information and strategy, supply chain professionals are positioned to execute SC processes with speed, agility and high performance. As United States founding father Ben Franklin stated, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Our thoughts are with and will continue to remain with those affected by the recent devastating events.

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Is Procurement Child’s Play?

Procurement is hardly child’s play, considering the numerous interconnected tasks required for efficient and effective execution.  Practitioners would enthusiastically argue that the procurement function has matured over the years – from scribbled orders on papyrus to a globally digital operation.  It has gradually morphed into a critical corporate function which profoundly impacts an enterprise’s bottom line.

The accompanying graphic, created by Bill Michels, CEO at Aripart Consulting, was presented during the Horizon 2014 Purchasing Conference. Michels, pointing out the changes over several decades said, “Over time, the procurement function has gone from being transaction-driven through a variety of stages until today, when the real focus of the department is around being driven by the business strategies of the organization.”

procurement evolution

Hardly child’s play.

Yet, wouldn’t it be interesting – and fun – to be able to explain procurement to a child, perhaps even using a universal business model with which they are likely to be familiar. For our purposes, we will parallel several current supply chain methodologies with the age-old street lemonade stand.

Procurement practices such as strategy development, inventory optimization, and demand forecasting are a few choice examples.


Fairly simple to describe: a plan of action to achieve one’s goals. A business strategy might differ slightly.  Wikibooks would have you believe a business strategy to be, “formulating, implementing and evaluating cross-functional decisions that will enable an organization to achieve its long-term objectives.” And profits.

Lemonade Stand Translation: Mom or Dad, please purchase the necessary quantities –at the right price –  of lemons, sugar and cups so that after I pay you back for your financial outlay of materials, I may keep what is left over (profits).

Inventory optimization

Too much inventory leads to lower profits, yet with insufficient inventory customer demands will fall short.  According to Wikipedia, “many organizations that utilized inventory optimization reduced inventory levels by up to 25 percent in one year and enjoyed a discounted cash flow above 50 percent in less than two years.”

Lemonade Stand Translation: Dixie cups (or a reliable –let’s not forget quality– competitor) are a must have to sell lemonade.  Help Mom or Dad understand that unit pricing might be best at buying 100 while understanding that damage may occur with storage.  Sourcing the cups from a discount supermarket rather than the local gourmet shop might enhance the bottom line. Purchasing a small amount of cups, initially, will lead to less waste.  But, good inventory management starts with good …

Demand Forecasting

The term demand forecasting is fairly self-explanatory; what do you predict the estimated sales will be for your product. Most companies use historical data as input for their determination.

Lemonade Stand Translation: What does the weather look like?  If this isn’t the first lemonade stand of our young proprietors they have probably learned that July is hotter than September; a great help in determining when and how many ingredients to purchase.  Of course, allowing sufficient purchasing lead time with mom or dad is necessary to meet the demand of customers.

What about the competition down the street?  Perhaps some benchmarking is on order.  Where did they ever get those cute cups?

The list is endless.

The message here isn’t that Procurement is easy.  It might be easy to explain, but its innate complexities render it an important function of the corporation. And if procurement isn’t your core competency, consider outsourcing it.

We are here to help.